Like taxes, iPhones and, well, Madden, you can count on a new Skylanders game every year. If you're unfamiliar with the franchise, that may just be a symptom of not being around kids -- the toy / video game series is a dominant force in the kids gaming market, sharing responsibility with biggies like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft for bringing in 80 percent of Activision's earnings in 2013. Each new entry in the game series comes with a new physical device for reading toy figurines; when said figurines are placed on the device (called a "portal"), they're transported into the game world and playable in-game.
Between the figures ($5 - $7 apiece, on average) and the games (anywhere from $7 to $60), it's easy to understand why the franchise is so profitable. Thankfully, the franchise is also lauded by most critics as a pretty decent game, too. The next entry, Skylanders: Trap Team, arrives this October -- the first time the series is on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One -- and it's the largest game in the franchise to date.%Gallery-slideshow190157%
24/03/2014 - Panasonic: High hopes for 4K TV
It looks like Sony's commanding lead in next-gen console sales didn't last long in the US. The NPD Group reports that the PlayStation 4 was the top-selling game console in the country this February, but only just -- the Xbox One managed to get over 90 percent of the PS4's sales volume. Microsoft says that it sold 258,000 units of its flagship, which suggests that Sony moved roughly 287,000 PS4s. Neither of these figures compare to what we saw during the systems' launch windows, but they're very healthy. Total hardware sales were up 42 percent year-over-year, and 44 percent over January. While Nintendo isn't divulging its numbers, it may have performed relatively well when analysts saw "double-to-triple digit increases" in month-to-month sales for most consoles.
Version 13 of XBMC's media center software, codenamed Gotham, is now ready for your official beta-testing pleasure. The foundation -- which started the project for the Xbox and spawned apps like Plex and platforms like Boxxee -- kicked off work on the update nearly a year ago. It said that many of the qualms addressed by version 12 (Frodo) users have been addressed. Most notably, it now supports native hardware decoding on Android for x86 and ARM platforms, which should bring smoother playback for codecs like Blu-ray. Other improvements include support for more 3D formats (with the notable exception of 3D Blu-ray), better touchscreen support, enhanced UPnP capability, "dramatic" audio engine improvements and easier setup. Though nightly versions have been available for a while, the company provided the usual caveats about beta software and the importance of backing up. If you're unperturbed by that, hit the source.
30/01/2014 - Nintendo's strategy to save its gaming kingdom: DS virtual console on Wii U, GamePad focus, on-demand services
It's been tough times for Nintendo. Its Wii U console has sold, in a year, 5 million units. Sounds decent enough, until you realize that's roughly the same number as both the PS4 and the Xbox One -- both on sale for mere months. Nintendo kicked off a business strategy briefing today in Tokyo, but it won't involve playing Nintendo titles elsewhere. The CEO announced at the start of the presentation that he wasn't pessimistic about the future of the company, reiterating that Nintendo would not be giving up the hardware side of the business. So what's stopped the Wii U from succeeding so far?
Nintendo's CEO announced at the start of the presentation that he wasn't pessimistic about the future of the company, and that they would not be giving up on hardware
The Nintendo boss admits that recognition of exactly what the GamePad does is low, and that many people view it as an accessory for the console -- it's not, by the way. Most interestingly, however, was the mention of an on-demand gaming service across games consoles, with the service based on your Nintendo ID rather than a device you owned. Bigger news still, is that you will see Nintendo DS games appear on the Wii U, via virtual console. Iwata added that the team will seek a partner to increase exposure for games and hardware. It will even, gasp, license character rights to other companies. He added in today's Q&A session that the company is already sharing its philosophy with another company and "aligning" with them. (Pretty mysterious, huh?)
When it comes to gaming on the Wii U, the CEO said they will focus on games that make the most the tablet-esque GamePad, especially titles with NFC -- expect to see announcements on this at E3 2014. Mario Kart 8 will also launch in May, and will apparently make strong use of the GamePad. At the same time, Nintendo is working on ensuring a faster start time when its used without a TV. We've got a video outlining the quick-boot function and even more details after the break.
08/01/2014 - Here's Sharp's 85-inch 8K TV with glasses-free 3D
It's so big and bright that it wasn't hard to find inside Sharp's booth, even when surrounded by a sea of other televisions from the manufacturer. What you see above, folks, is an 85-inch, 8K glasses-free 3D TV from Sharp. This behemoth, ultra-high res display is rather similar to the one from CES 2013, save for the fact you can enjoy three-dimensional content without any eye hardware. While everything about this TV is indeed interesting, we can't say we were too impressed by the glasses-free 3D. It is pretty easy for your eyes to get tired of the effect quickly, and at times some frames pass through so fast that it ends up making the content seem blurry -- we're not the only ones who feel this way, apparently. Aside from those things, the image is incredibly sharp; the TV was showing scenes from Life of Pi and Frozen, both of which looked stunning on the big screen.
Obviously, Sharp's 85-inch, 8K 3D TV is still in the early stages, and thus it wouldn't be fair to judge it based on first impressions. Chances are it'll improve tremendously as the company continues to work on it. For now, it is a very dazzling thing to look at and we can't wait to see it down the road. Check out the pictures we took of it after the break, or, if you're here at the LVCC, stop by the Sharp booth to experience it yourself. Let us know what you think in the comments below.%Gallery-slideshow160141%
07/01/2014 - A chip off the 3D printing block: Samsung partners with 3D Systems for custom Note 3 cases (video)
It figures that Samsung would want to take its "Create" tagline for the Note series and press on into 3D printing because: You. Customization. The endless possibilities. And all that other jargon-y industry buzz buzz buzz. Well, now that the Korean electronics giant's taking a stab at the make-it-yourself wheel, it's partnered with 3D Systems to show off an app that makes custom inserts for specially-designed Galaxy Note 3 cases. The catch here being that it's not a soon-to-be released commercial product. This is all just concept for now and you have to be at CES 2014 in Las Vegas to test it out.
Instead of whipping up entire cases, the 3D Systems app allows users visiting Samsung's booth to create custom-designed coins (small plastic inserts that slot into the base of a Note 3 case) using its new entry-level Cube 3 3D printer. Coin creation is fairly straightforward with options to add a range of pre-set icons, text or free hand drawing. There are also three template users can choose from: a plain-faced Simple Coin, an Olive Wreath or Poker Chip. But 3D Systems told us that it intends to swap out these three templates throughout the week, so what you'll see will depend on the day you visit.
Once you've settled on a final design, the coin printing process takes about 20 minutes to complete, but not everyone who passes through the booth will see their designs come to life. 3D Systems plans to sort through all submitted designs and populate a wall in Samsung's booth with the best of the bunch -- a money shot we'll have for you later this week. So, there's your taste of the future folks: Big-ass phones, styluses, 3D printers and your unbridled creativity (actual sense of taste optional). %Gallery-slideshow159852%
Sharp loves to show off the 8K technology it hopes to see in your living room in the future. It's no surprise, then, that the outfit is yet again using CES as a platform to tease another super, super high-res 85-inch screen. Unlike the gorgeous panel we saw last year (pictured above), though, this time Sharp's rolled into the desert with a glasses-free 3D flavor of its 7,680 x 4,320 display. The company isn't sharing many more details at the moment, but, for what it's worth, it did mention that its latest 8K creation was done in collaboration with Philips and Dolby. While we haven't seen this thing ourselves, we know it's here, somewhere in Las Vegas, so we'll be sure to update this post as soon as our eyes meet all those pixels.
After indie game darling Braid's mass popularity, creator Jonathan Blow didn't go crazy and buy a Lamborghini or something. He started a game studio instead, to create his next big thing: The Witness. Blow was on-stage at Sony's big PlayStation 4 announcement event back in February (that was this year!), where he announced The Witness as headed to the PlayStation 4 as a "console exclusive" -- a coup for Sony's PlayStation 4 after Braid initially debuted exclusively on Microsoft's Xbox 360 in 2008.
Since that announcement, Blow's been in development mode. The Witness was featured at Sony's PlayStation 4 review event, as well as trade shows like E3 and Gamescom, but he and his team have otherwise been pretty quiet. A few weeks ago, however, Blow posted a duo of enticing images (one of which is seen above) with the headline, "What could it mean??" The internet answered with the logical response: "Jonathan Blow possibly teasing Oculus [Rift] support for The Witness. This game seems like a perfect fit." is Reddit's headline. Surprising no one, The Witness -- at least the PC version -- will support the Oculus Rift.
"The main work we are doing is not for the Oculus," Blow told Engadget. "But then, since we are doing 3D it is not that big a step to support the Oculus also, so we are implementing support for it." In other news, apparently The Witness will support 3D televisions! It's not clear how the headset will interact with the game in terms of gameplay input, but we're thrilled enough by the thought of exploring The Witness' first-person open-world using the Oculus Rift. And hey, maybe by then there'll be a consumer version in sight by the time The Witness launches in 2014!
You'd better put that coffee down before you exhale it through your nose. Why? Because thanks to the very kind folk at Cartridge Discount, you could win a 3D printer. A second generation Cube by 3D Systems, to be precise. Not only would this make any tech-lover's Christmas, it solves your shopping woes too -- now you can print those socks for Uncle Alan if you win. Or stock up on bargain toner from Cartridge Discount if you don't. So, undoubtedly this is one heck of a prize for our UK readers (sorry everyone else), but you're likely wondering what you need to do to take part? Well here's the best part, just head past the break, read the terms and conditions (important!), and choose from the assortment of entry methods we've laid on for you. Don't thanks us, thank your lucky stars.
Sony's PlayStation 4 has surely taken over today's headlines, but that's not stopping Nintendo from making some news of its own. The company today announced that a YouTube application is coming to the 3DS at long last, giving users a chance to search, browse and watch videos right from the handheld system. What's more, Nintendo also said the Wii U's YouTube app will be getting overhauled in the coming weeks, complete with GamePad-focused search features and a variety of user interface enhancements. YouTube for the Nintendo 3DS is expected to arrive in North America and Europe by the end of this month -- in the meantime, you can keep watching those Francis rants on one of many other devices.
Source: Nintendo (Twitter)
12/11/2013 - Lytro software update lets you view images in 3D
A nice little, erm, shift in focus for everyone's favorite consumer-facing light field camera. Thanks to a software update to the desktop and iOS versions of the camera's app, users will be able to display Perspective Shifted images in three dimensions using 3D-enabled TV. Lytro Desktop 3.1 and Lytro Mobile 1.2 are available for your downloading pleasure today. The company also marked the release of a Cobalt Blue version of the camera. You'll only be able to pick that one up through Apple's site.
Sony has just announced the VPL-VW500ES 4K projector at IFA 2013 in Berlin, and though it didn't name a price, said it'll be much cheaper than its first 4K projector. Before you start re-arranging your theater room, though, the original VPL-VW1000ES cost a cool $25,000, so "cheaper" might be a relative term. If you're undeterred, though, you'll get full 4,096 x 2,160 4K resolution thanks to native 4K SXRD panels -- technology that Sony lifted from its commercial cinema projectors. Other perks include 1,700 ANSI-lumen brightness (compared to 2,000 for the VW1000ES), a 200,000:1 contrast ratio, "Super Resolution" Blu-ray to 4K upscaling, Motionflow tech for less blur, and support for HDMI 2.0 -- which permits 60fps 4K. Again, Sony hasn't mentioned a price yet, but we did see it at a French retailer for 10,000 euros, meaning a $10,000 price seems feasible.
Sony also dropped a Full HD 3D model, the VPL-HW55ES projector, which replaces the VPL-HW50ES as its top 1080p dog while using the same SXRD tech. It boasts 1,700 ANSI-lumens, a 120,000:1 contrast ratio, a 5,000 hour lamp, an optical engine upgrade and Reality Creation technology. Both projectors offer wireless HDMI compatibility, and will arrive at some point next month. For more minutiae, check the PR after the break.
Nobody can accuse Oscar-winning director Ang Lee of being stuck in a box, having gone from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Hulk to Life of Pi. According to Deadline Hollywood, he'll next tackle a boxing film that looks at the 1960s and '70s golden age or prizefighting, with such rivalries as Ali-Frazier and Hearns-Duran. Intriguingly, he intends to give us an intimate peek into that world by filming it in 3D, presumably using Life of Pi's Cameron Pace Fusion 3D technology. Other story and technical details have yet to come out, but given the filmmaker's love of complex themes and the epic clashes of the era, he's got our attention.
Via: The Guardian
Source: Deadline Hollywood
08/08/2013 - BenQ ships W1500 projector with wireless 3D video
When projectors are a dime a dozen, they have to do something truly special to stand out. BenQ's newly available W1500 might just pull that off: how does high-quality wireless video sound? The DLP unit is billed as the first projector to offer WHDI over 5GHz frequencies, letting it stream 1080p 3D movies at quality that's reportedly on par with an HDMI signal. The company isn't leaning solely on this trick to lure us in, mind you. The W1500 integrates with mobile devices, courts gamers through 3DTV Play support and throws an 84-inch picture from as close as six feet away. Such convenience is expensive at $2,299, but it could be a viable alternative to stringing video cables around the den.
When Avatar hit theaters in 2009 it was notable not only for its incredible computer rendered special effects and record breaking box office returns, but also as a touchstone for a resurgence of 3D movies. Now 20th Century Fox and director James Cameron have announced plans to build out a quadrilogy of Avatar movies. Screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Shane Salerno and Josh Friedman are all on board to collaborate on the screenplays for movies 2, 3 and 4, which will be produced by Cameron and Jon Landau's Lightstorm Entertainment. Avatar 2 is scheduled to hit theaters in December 2016, with the other movies following in 2017 and 2018. WETA remains on hand to produce the special effects, we'll see what advancements in technology (Jim's in love with high framerates but The Hobbit didn't garner a universally positive response) allow them to create this time around and if audiences come out in similar numbers -- hopefully the 3D Blu-ray (or whatever format is around) doesn't take so long to arrive at retail this time.
Just how popular is 3D broadcast content? Not even a tiny bit, if the BBC's latest decision is any indication. Britain's top broadcaster has vowed to take a three-year hiatus from producing 3D video -- in an interview with Radio Times, Kim Shillinglaw, who heads up the British Broadcasting Corporation's 3D pilot program, cited the cumbersome process consumers face when gearing up to view three-dimensional footage. She'll focus on her secondary position as head of science and natural history during the organization's three-year embargo. A Doctor Who anniversary episode will be the BBC's final 3D program for the year, giving early adopting Brits one last opportunity to slide on their glasses before retiring them to the "junk drawer" until 3D's resounding resurgence.
Source: Radio Times
Though ESPN 3D's imminent demise might be evidence to some that 3D TV isn't exactly killing it, BBC has confirmed that it will cover Wimbledon again this year with that extra dimension. In particular, it will broadcast selected matches, including the men's and women's finals and semi-finals, in free-to-air 3D for those with the Red Button service and supported sets. Wimbledon marked its first-ever 3D broadcast two years ago, and the BBC is also experimenting with 4K coverage this year with Sony, albeit exclusively at a live spectator "experience zone" on the finely manicured grounds. The network also said it would up its live streams from six to ten to go with its YouTube coverage -- meaning UKers who miss a single grunt will have only themselves to blame.
ESPN 3D launched in 2010 with coverage of 25 FIFA World Cup matches, but word that the channel will be mothballed has the international football association reviewing whether it will use the tech in 2014. An Associated Press report quotes FIFA director of television Niclas Ericson saying that there is interest from several broadcasters in a 3D presentation, but the cost is currently under review. While FIFA focuses on its standard HD broadcasts, it's also thinking over offering 4K Ultra HD coverage, which is currently being tested during Confederations Cup matches. The Hollywood Reporter points out that while Sony has backed off some of the sponsorships that pushed early 3D productions, it's providing some of the equipment for UHDTV tests like its F55 4K camera. Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is already in line for a 4K soccer broadcast in 2014, we'll see if it's put to use alongside new goal-line technology.
Source: Associated Press
Samsung told us to expect its 55-inch OLED TV sometime in July, but there's now a chance that South Koreans will get an early look. Yonhap News Agency hears through tipsters that the premium set could ship to Samsung's homeland next week, with a price somewhere north of 10 million won ($8,840). It might not be alone, either -- those same sources also claim that the company's curved OLED TV may arrive at the same time. Samsung hasn't confirmed anything, but such moves would line up with the firm's tendency to debut products in its home country. Besides, Samsung rarely lets any of LG's salvos go unanswered.
Source: Yonhap News Agency
Nintendo was coy when it announced that its first free-to-play game will launch before the end of next March, divulging only that it wouldn't belong to the Mario or Pokemon franchises. However, the firm's Shigeru Miyamoto revealed to IGN that its first gratis title would be a Steel Diver game -- yes, as in the 3DS launch title -- featuring four-person multiplayer. Don't expect a rehash though, as the pricing model will change the game's design. Kyoto's gaming powerhouse hasn't settled on what business model they'll lean on quite yet, but CEO Satoru Iwata mentioned during an E3 analyst Q&A that its unpaid games would be "balanced and reasonable." The Big N noted that "free-to-play games, if unbalanced, could result in some consumers paying extremely large amounts of money, and we can certainly not expect to build a good relationship with our consumers in this fashion." There's still no word regarding which consoles this free installment of Steel Diver will grace, but Miyamoto teases that it's something they're hoping to show "relatively soon."
13/06/2013 - Nintendo's Eiji Aonuma on the Wii U's stumbles, Virtual Console support and a 'need to evolve'
It's cool to be different. That's the message we typically feed our children when they come up against peer opposition. It's also an attitude Nintendo's adopted time and time again when its penchant for innovation, aversion to hardcore gameplay and reliance on classic franchises have put the company in a perceived last place position. But, as it's continually proven -- and most successfully with the Wii -- you can't ever definitively count the Mario hitmaker out. There always seems to be an ace in the company's IP sleeve that keeps bringing gamers and its diehard fanbase back to the fold. But we have to wonder: how long will that last? It's a question we posed directly to Eiji Aonuma, Nintendo's Most Valuable Player #2 and Zelda mastermind, this week at E3. And his answer might surprise you: "If we don't change we might die. We need to evolve. Things need to change. Things need to grow." It's a sobering admission, especially considering the source.
"If we don't change we might die. We need to evolve. Things need to change. Things need to grow."
The IP ace this time around falls upon the Zelda franchises' shoulders, except not in the way we've come to expect. The two newest titles in the series, headed to the 3DS and Wii U, also happen to be recycled efforts: a reimagining of A Link to the Past and an HD reboot of the Wind Waker, both headed up by Aonuma. Perhaps it's just a consequence of franchise fatigue and player familiarity, but there's something more alarming, more distressing about this back catalog mining; something Aonuma's all too aware of. It's also something he's actively steering his production teams away from, while at the same time attempting to take it all in as a greater lesson for a company so tethered to video gaming past. So to catch some deeper perspective on Nintendo's next-gen leanings, its level of self-awareness and the future of Zelda, we sat down with Aonuma for what turned out to be an honest and refreshing chat.
A lack of interest in 3D viewing at home has claimed one of its first major victims today, as ESPN announced its 3D channel is going to shut down. ESPN 3D launched back in 2010 with coverage of the FIFA World Cup, but it will not make it to the next one, or to see ESPN's new Monday Night Football deal. In between it's broadcast everything from golf to the X Games to the NBA Finals, along with college football national championship games and and a one-off news spot on E:60. AT&T's U-verse dropped the channel in August 2011 after being one of the launch partners, but said it would come back due to a new agreement signed earlier this year. ESPN overcame many technology and cost hurdles to broadcasting 3D over the years, but in the end the chilly reception from the marketplace for 3D at home appears to have been too much to overcome. Another element that likely affected it were recent layoffs by parent company Disney, that Multichannel News reports included some jobs associated with ESPN 3D.
So what's next for ESPN? According to a statement, "committing our 3D resources to other products and services that will better serve fans and affiliates." That should include the 4K capabilities planned for its new facility in Bristol, but we'll have to wait until it opens next year to find out. For now ESPN says it will be ready to provide 3D content again "if or when" the viewing format takes off -- the release of another Avatar flick or TVs that don't need glasses for 3D might help -- now the question is if / when other early efforts like n3D and 3net could also be shelved.
Source: ESPN 3D (Twitter)
The Skylanders aren't just evolving into combinable characters in their next entry, they're also heading to Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Skylanders Swap Force was given an October 13th release date today, alongside news of its two new platforms (in addition to being on basically every other video game platform in existence).
Like previous entries in the Skylanders series, Swap Force employs a wired power pad where physical Skylanders toys (Swap Force versions seen above), power-ups, and new levels can be placed and then played in-game. This October's entry allows for toys from both the original Skylanders game and Giants to work with it; that also applies to PS4 and Xbox One versions. As for the launch date of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions ... well, that's a question of when Microsoft and Sony launch their consoles. The game will otherwise launch on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS, Wii and Wii U on October 13th.
While many remember the moment Dorothy stepped out into the Technicolor land of Oz, Warner is aiming to make that moment even grander with a 75th anniversary Wizard of Oz re-release this fall. The plans call for a week-long IMAX 3D run (similar to recent releases like Jurassic Park and the Oz HD screening back in '09) beginning September 20th, and a Blu-ray releases hitting shelves October 1st. Digitally remastered and scanned in 8K before being rotoscoped and converted for 3D from the original Technicolor negative, Warner called it a long and complex project which it would not release until "perfect." The Blu-ray set will come in several versions, with the five disc 75th Anniversary set including Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet versions plus a making of documentary and other special features. That one is currently priced at $73.99 on Amazon, and a 2-disc Blu-ray 3D combo pack goes for $26.99, with Blu-ray and DVD versions also planned. Check after the break for a press release with all the details, plus a video clip of that colorized first step and a documentary from the last time it was remastered, scanned in merely 4K resolution.
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